Accelerated Backup Problem-solving: IBM
Optimizes the Front End

Solving problems faster means understanding them more easily

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

As IT continues to evolve—addressing business goals faster, and more effectively, at lower costs—one of the clearest signs of that evolution lies in how solutions empower users via their user interfaces.

When IT tools are easier to use, presenting key information in a straightforward and intuitive way, they also spur a faster response to changing conditions and reduce the odds of technical problems creating a substantial business impact. In short, they empower organizations to become more agile.

One clear instance of this situation is backup and archiving, where up to 40% of the total cost is labor. Historically, these solutions have often required expert administration from a specialist. Expertise is required because backup tasks can fail for any number of reasons as data migrates, new systems come online, and old servers are retired. All backup issues need to be investigated and resolved.

Understanding the total backup infrastructure has also been more difficult than ideally would be the case. In a typical large organization, there are thousands of target systems to be backed up, and multiple storage repositories to hold those backups, themselves spread over multiple locations including recovery sites and vaults.

It's hard for administrators and managers to visualize all of this. Because they can't, they also can't always swiftly respond when problems occur. And problems in backup processes occur with unfortunate frequency.

A new interface helps you centralize and simplify backup/archiving/restoration over the entire backup infrastructure

Enter IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) Operations Center (Link resides outside of ibm.com), which was designed to address just this situation. This offering, currently in an open beta, is the next generation of backup administration from IBM. New graphics and integrated automation features leapfrog traditional backup user interfaces by making the job so clear and straightforward that overall productivity climbs considerably.

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"This offering, currently in an open beta, does for backup administration what graphic user interfaces do for typical desktop computing: renders the job so clear and straightforward that overall productivity climbs considerably."

Quote from an IBM Client

"TSM Operations Center is the best thing to happen to TSM since incremental forever" -- Wanda Prather, Baltimore-Washington TSM User Group Member

In fact, TSM Operations Center is so easy to use that many everyday tasks and issues can now be resolved by non-specialists—allowing those tasks to be accomplished faster and freeing specialists to focus on the most complex issues, where their time is best spent.

Let's walk through some of this solution's capabilities in more detail.

TSM Operations Center is best understood not as a fundamentally new backup/archiving/restoration solution, but as a new, centralized front end to IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager product family. It puts an intuitive, friendly face on TSM, unifying overall management in the simplest, most intuitive, and most efficient way.

To do so, it provides a Web-based dashboard that includes critical information about the complete backup infrastructure—meaning all the systems, VMs and applications that are being backed up, all the backup servers, and the backup storage repositories.

Because this dashboard is visual, it's easy to manage backup tasks running across multiple backup servers. And beyond the infrastructure proper and the logical tasks involving it, managers can also see how well (or how badly) those tasks have been carried out.

The health and capacity of backup systems, for instance, is evident at a glance, as is task fulfillment—allowing managers to see, in seconds, whether a night's backup jobs came off without a hitch, or if not, which backups require investigation and possible corrective action.

The Web-based implementation of the GUI means it's also easy to accomplish all of this from essentially any device, any time, and anywhere—whether a traditional desktop computer/workstation, a laptop, or even a browser-enabled mobile device. The improvement in convenience for backup administrators and data center managers, based on this aspect alone, is tremendous.

Distributed problem solving through improved IT team collaboration

Now let's suppose, as is too often the case, that a few backups didn't execute perfectly. This could arise from many possible causes—a scheduling error, for instance, or a network error, or even something as simple as a target system having inadvertently been turned off, preventing the backup from taking place at all.

TSM Operations Center helps administrators visualize the backup history for a particular system and focus on the key error messages. The solution proactively detects problems—essentially, calling them to the attention of the backup administrator, along with essential information needed for resolution. Instead of having to dig laboriously through logs, managers can simply see, in the dashboard, what went wrong, where, and why. The impact on service levels is clear, making it easy to understand which tasks are likely to involve the biggest potential business impact and deliver a prioritized response (or even predict future problems of a similar nature and resolve them in advance to reduce their impact to zero).

Still more improvements in problem resolution stem from the fact that TSM Operations Center lets non-specialists handle everyday tasks. Almost any IT team member—not just backup experts—can understand the information provided by the solution, and in many (if not most) cases, resolve the issues it reports. TSM Operations Center includes a built-in service for assigning problems among support teams. Overall team collaboration is thus significantly enhanced, and overall backup problem resolution happens more quickly, with less effort, at lower costs.

But what about the more complex problems—the ones that really do require a specialist to solve? These issues fall outside the scope of the help desk. Here, too, TSM Operations Center has been designed to drive a quick, effective resolution process. It does so by empowering backup specialists with an extra capability: a pop-up command builder that can be used from within the primary interface (the Web dashboard). This command builder helps experts take necessary corrective action quickly, then update the dashboard to reflect that a fix is now in place. All told, TSM Operations Center can dramatically improve problem resolution time and reduce complexity.

IBM welcomes continued user input and suggestions for new features and capabilities. Be sure to check out the TSM Operations Center DeveloperWorks community to contribute your own thoughts/requests, try the latest version of the beta, and learn more.

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